The op-ed below was written by a group of young people living in New Orleans. They conducted interviews, analyzed results, and wrote an essay to speak their truth about the city ten years after Katrina.
Of note: the youth asked not to be identified personally or through any groups they work with, out of concern that they would be disciplined by their school leadership. They have learned that when private interests ‘reform’ schools, reputation and the bottom line overtake critical inquiry.
As the ten year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the city of New Orleans is filled with high energy from the life-long residents of the city. The New Orlenians that have seen the good and bad that this city has to offer. There has been plenty of conversation in the city about whether or not the people feel like New Orleans has fully recovered from hurricane Katrina. On this Friday morning as students were arriving to school, they were surprised to see a yard full of signs reading
All McDonough schools were founded by money made directly from slave labor
Your principal makes over $90,000 a year , but why is your school a “F” school?
How many of your teachers live in your neighborhood?
If you feel like a prisoner in your school, ask your teacher “why”
Your homies from class of 2013. . . where are they now?
The black math teacher from 2004 who lived in your neighborhood, where are they?
The science teacher from 2003 who taught you to be proud of your heritage, where are they?
The principal who taught you the black national anthem, what happened to them?
New Beginnings Schools Foundation runs Lake Area. Their CEO make $140,000 a year, but why is your school only a “D” school?
At a time like this when the city is highly anticipating the commemoration of Hurricane Katrina, the youth of New Orleans boldly decided to use artful expression to speak up about how they feel. Directly addressing the farce of better schools and improving education in the city of New Orleans that has been portrayed by the media. This is a method that I agree with completely. The youth has been blatantly ignored by the media and by the city of New Orleans when it comes to listening to their opinion of why the crime rate is so high, why there is a lack of opportunity in the city for youth of color and why the city is not better off now than it was ten years ago. In fact the city is worse off than it was ten years ago especially in terms of education.
Before you believe the hype that surrounds the 10th Anniversary, try to think of the names of all the teachers who were unjustly fired right after the storm. And try to think of the names of all the students who’ve been pushed out of schools because of racist and unfair discipline policies. When you think of what it means to have a real education system that encourages critical thought and self-discovery, try to think of names. Not data points. And if the names don’t come to you, maybe you should ask yourselves why they’ve been erased.
That’s what young people have done with their art. They’re asking questions and demanding answers. This reaction from the youth represents a bold statement in the face of anyone who is now saying that the city of New Orleans has recovered from hurricane Katrina and the corruption that followed in the midst of hurricane Katrina. As the hashtag at the bottom of the posters says, this is #whywefight.
-written by New Orleans Youth